Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Football Season

It’s that time of year again – when the air begins to cool, the leaves change colors, and people make mass migrations to their favorite college campus to watch some football. I get goosebumps just thinking about. Yes, it’s time for NCAA Football. I’ve religiously followed college football for the last six years and thought I knew a lot about the sport – until c21 began working with NCAA Football to provide marketing PR support for its Youth Initiative.

The Youth Initiative includes NCAA Football Youth Day clinics, a grant program and events surrounding the BCS National Championship game in Miami. The program strives to attract more kids to the game, provide them with additional motivation to pursue a college education, help them develop the necessary skills to be successful on and off the field, and help to establish a new base of lifelong NCAA Football fans like myself.

The Youth Initiative program further deepens my commitment and excitement surrounding NCAA Football – in that this national nonprofit is giving back to youth football leagues across the country and nurturing the growth of my favorite sport. Check out our Web site for case studies of similar projects, and be sure to watch your favorite college football teams battle it out over the coming months in the race to the BCS National Championship on January 8! Go Dawgs!

Are you a die-hard college football fan? If so, e-mail me and tell me about it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Social Media – effective campaign tactic or waste of time?

As this year’s presidential candidates are eight weeks away from decision day, they’re competing even more for our eyes and ears. Countless TV commercials, online ads and emails have already started, and we’re not even halfway through September. But, as a marketing PR professional, I find it fascinating to see how this election has incorporated social media tactics on a whole new level.

Through promoting his Facebook page and other social networking sites, communicating on Twitter, driving supporters to his Web site, and offering text messages, Obama reaches out to young voters, and it seems to be working. For example, he has more than 1.6 million supporters on Facebook, while McCain has just over 250,000. On Twitter, nearly 73,000 are following Obama, and McCain doesn’t even have an official Twitter account. These numbers are also reflected in national polls; among 18 to 29 year olds, who are typical social media users – Obama leads McCain 52 to percent to 40 percent (according to a recent Reuters/Zogby poll).

While McCain also has a Facebook page and a Web site, he’s by no means a maverick when it comes to technology – the candidate has admitted that he not only rarely e-mails, he also is effectively Internet-illiterate. However, in a recent and surprising twist of fate, McCain was able to connect with young voters. In response to a McCain ad that compared Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Paris filmed her own campaign ad thanking McCain for his endorsement for her candidacy. This video has garnered more than seven million views on and more than 1,000 responses to Paris’ ad have been added to YouTube. While the increase in online discussion about McCain was completely accidental, it did get more young people talking about him, which may work in his favor in the long run.

We still have a couple of months to go before we know the full impact of these new tactics, but we have already seen how they can effectively engage an overlooked and often under-appreciated segment – young, dedicated voters. It will no doubt be an exciting election to watch!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Value of Labor Day

So---it's Tuesday on the calendar, but it’s Monday from my perspective. Yesterday was Labor Day, and I joined my family and friends for some fun at the lake. In the boat on the crystal clear green water, I wondered:

  • What are my colleagues doing to celebrate their Labor Day?

  • How does our nation manage to still even celebrate this day with our performance-pressure, deadline-driven, Wall Street oriented corporate culture?

  • Who was still at the office working and why was I the lucky one who really got to be off?

Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894. I think those sages knew better than us the answer to all these questions. Bottom line: we needed perspective. Back then, it was respite from the labor unions and the fields. Today, its time away from communication inundation via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, instant messenger, e-mail and our cell phones to name a few.

In my dual-income, one-kid, two-dog household, time is precious. Juggling business dinners, dance classes, my child’s homework, last week’s laundry and the proverbial “What’s for Dinner, Mom” saga, perspective isn’t about a 9-to-5 day and then home for tea-and-crumpets, its about the seven P’s: prior proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. The perspective should always be—what can be done today to prepare for tomorrow. Utilizing resources creatively helps maintain that balance and is the foundation for the ability to provide the cool, objective, wise-counsel our clients deserve.

I wasn’t at c21 when Sharon started the firm in 1992, but I know she wanted to create a great place to work that offered clients Remarkable Service and Real Results. She wanted a place where it was not about the billable hour, but about the final product. She wanted a place where employees felt compelled to cross the finish line and keep running. Her perspective has always been work hard, play hard. And so, to that end, I found myself on a glassy lake, with the wind in my face, celebrating the opportunity to labor---for a great company with an intelligent team that never gives up in the pursuit of what is best for their clients, community, colleagues and companions.

The Intern Speaks

As I began my senior year at Indiana University, one thing seemed to reverberate again and again in the halls of the Journalism School: “It’s not necessarily what you know, but who you know…”

So when I bought an airplane ticket to Atlanta and showed up at PRSA’s Real World PR 2008 – alone – I figured I had my work cut out for me. I spent the day stepping outside of my so-called “comfort zone,” approaching strangers and asking questions. At lunch, I recognized the logos on the nametags of two people who sat across from me. I jumped at the chance to pull up a chair with Jessica and Renee from c21 – an agency I found during pre-conference research (and that I secretly decided was already my favorite).

Following the conference, I kept in touch, flew back for an interview for the summer internship position, and got it. In May, I packed up my car and headed south.

Three months later, I’m sitting here on the last day of my internship. One thing’s for sure: I’ve come a long way.

c21 is a small agency – so I realized quickly that I would have a lot of different responsibilities. Did I get the mail every day? Yes. Did I file stacks of media clips? You bet. Did I update databases? Oh yeah. But I also conducted media relations, participated in creative brainstorms, wrote press releases and e-newsletter articles, and even managed some projects of my own.

After drafting a press release for our client and distributing it to local media, I pitched a story, secured interviews, and saw it through until the story ran in the DeKalb Neighbor. My first clip – and a bump in OnTheSide’s Web site traffic!

In addition to traditional media relations and PR, I’ve been a part of our digital service practice group, c21i. I’ve worked on social media integration, link building, keyword development and copy suggestions, and – now – blog posting.

I’d like to think I’m the only intern that has had such a great experience, but I’m sure there are others who feel equally satisfied with their internships. What I do know is that not many have been lucky enough to work with a team of women as awesome as the c21ers.

These ladies know what they’re doing, and the best part is they love doing it. I’ve been impressed over and over – and not because my desk is next to a wall full of awards (not shelf – wall). I’ve experienced a hard-working team environment, client dedication, and innovative PR tactics at their best.

Maybe it’s what you know. Maybe it’s who. Either way, I’m confident what I learned from, and who I know at c21 have gotten me off to a pretty great start.